Pursuit: Here are the favourites – who do you think wins?

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 25 Feb 2011@14:13

The pursuit is the second medal discipline in this World Championships. Whereas the sprint was very open – there are two very big favourites in the pursuit: Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug – both competing on home ground in Oslo. Can the home crowd carry them towards two more gold medals for Norway?

The interesting aspect of a pursuit race is that the first part of the race is in classic style – and the second part in free style. That means that the classic specialists will try to keep the speed as high as possible in the first part of the race to make the remaining field as small as possible.

Men – 30 km pursuit

We have four big favourites in the mens class:

  • Petter Northug. The Norwegian has his big strength in the last sprint, and can relax back in the field throughout the race with the knowledge that he can usually beat anybody on the last kilometer. That confidence is worth a lot!
  • Marcus Hellner – reigning world champion on pursuit – and also the winner on the World Champs sprint this year. Hellner is probably the one who has the biggest chances of beating Northug – but is Hellner hungry enough after the sprint gold?
  • Dario Cologna. The Swiss is always in the top – but seldom wins World Cup races. However, as he has showed in some cases he can deliver a top performance when it really counts. Can Cologna beat the Scandinavians?
  • Alexander Legkov. The Russian was extremely strong at the start of the season, but has not been that dominant lately. However, he has showed his potential, and if he is at his top, he will be very difficult to beat. Legkov will probably try to decide the race some kilometers ahead of the finish, to avoid the very last sprint.

In addition we have Daniel Rickardsson as an outsider. The Swede crushed everybody on the last classic races in Drammen a week ago. His strenght is classic skiing, but he has gotten better and better in skating this season. He is not among the top gold favourites, but it still will not be a big surprise if he takes it home! One should also not forget Lukas Bauer – although skating is not his best discipline Update: Lukas Bauer concentrated on the classic 15 km on Tuesday, and is not starting. Alex Harvey may also surprise everybody and get a medal – maybe even gold?

Women – 15 km pursuit

Among the women we have two very big favourites – Marit Bjørgen and Justyna Kowalczyk – but behind these two it is more open. If the field is together all the way towards the end, one of those behind might even manage to grab the gold in front of the two big favourites.

Here are the favourites in the womens class:

  • Marit Bjørgen. Has won all distance races this year – she has been so dominating that it would be a surprise if she didn’t take the gold medal.
  • Justyna Kowalczyk. The Pole is the World Cup leader after a great performance in Tour de Ski – and if Bjørgen would not have been on the start list, she would have been the big favourite.
  • Charlotte Kalla. The Swede is one of the skiers who may beat Bjørgen on a great day. Is Saturday February 26th Kalla’s day?
  • Aino-Kaisa Saarinen has been a shadow of her own self most of this year, but she showed last weekend in Drammen that she found her shape just in time for the World Champs. Don’t be surprised if Saarinen takes a medal – on a good day she might even go all the way?
  • Therese Johaug. This very strong Norwegian is not the fastest in the final sprint, but will surely be in for the medal fight.

In addition to these, we have Kristin Størmer Steira who might be fighting for the medals if she is fully fit from her injuries. Also, don’t forget the Italians, Follis and Longa.

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